Regions Shenandoah Valley

Out of the shadows

Nexus Services helps immigrants being held in detention

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Print this page by James Heffernan
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Mike Donovan says Nexus Services began in 2009
as a jail ministry. Photo by Mark Rhodes

In fiscal year 2015, the Department of Homeland Security detained more than 400,000 people who were either caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally or had already been living here illegally and now faced deportation. These immigrants are held in detention facilities across the country while their cases are adjudicated.

That’s where Nexus Services, which recently moved its headquarters to Augusta County, comes in. Every day, more than two dozen immigrants are released from detention to a Nexus employee.

“It’s addictive,” Nexus President Mike Donovan says of his company’s work. A former pastor, Donovan has built one of the nation’s leading corporate providers of services for immigrant detainees.

“When we became aware of the plight of immigrants in detention, we wanted to help,” Donovan says. “The judicial system is very different for them. We decided we wanted to find a way to help, to use technology to unite them and their families and bring them out of the shadows.”

Nexus began in 2009 as a  jail ministry to help secure immigrant detainees’ release from custody and reunite them with their families. Because violating U.S. immigration laws is a civil offense, immigrant detention bonds are civil bonds, which require 100 percent collateral, Donovan explains. Without a home or sufficient cash, many of these immigrants sit in jail while awaiting their court hearings.

Donovan soon realized that to gain the trust of immigrants in detention, Nexus would need to leverage private assets. So it was re-formed in 2012 and set out to build homes for immigrants in the Shenandoah Valley.

In addition to immigration bonds, the Nexus group of companies now includes property management and security services. A nonprofit arm, Caridades by Nexus, provides scholarships, money for community initiatives and pro-bono legal services in communities where its clients work and live.

“Community is a critically important thing in the Shenandoah Valley,” Donovan says. “When these people become marginalized, they’re not connected to their community.”

In April last year, Nexus Services purchased the Mill Place Office Park in Verona, where it already was leasing space, and began combining its various operations.  Previously Nexus’ services were based in Harrisonburg and Fairfax.

Immigration bonds remain one of the company’s main services. Libre by Nexus enlists insurance companies to post civil detention bonds on behalf of its clients and offers GPS ankle bracelets to ensure that they won’t flee while they await court hearings. Nexus clients pay a premium payment to the bond company (through Libre) based upon the total amount of the bond. Libre does not keep any of that money. The company charges a service fee and a GPS bracelet installation and tracking fee.

The company has 15 full-time attorneys around the country who help secure immigrants’ release and prepare their cases.

Libre by Nexus created 35 positions last year, all of them in Verona. The company has also established a national call center in the Mill Place Office Park. A third building was completed in December, and Nexus hopes to break ground again in the spring. “Our plan is to have a total of eight buildings,” Donovan says.

Donovan says Nexus chose Augusta for its headquarters because of its central location in the valley, natural beauty and access to the Middle River Regional Jail and major highways. “We had an opportunity to bring the Nexus family here to the valley, and we didn’t hesitate,” he says.

The company’s $22 million investment will create about 250 new jobs during the next three years. Nexus currently has 26 offices and more than 100 employees around the country.

In addition to drawing on the valley’s work force, the company plans to engage young people in area high schools as volunteers and to offer them the opportunity to hone their Spanish-language skills.
Aiding immigrant detainees draws its share of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, but Donovan remains steadfast in his belief in the value of his company’s services.

“We’re trying to short-circuit this massive throwing away of people in our society,” he says. “To the people on the left, I would say there’s a real need for these services in the private sector and no one else is doing what we do. To the people on the right, their concerns are often driven by fear. Immigrants who work with Nexus are brought out of the shadows and encouraged to participate in society. It formalizes their status here and strengthens our communities, and we’re all better off.”

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